My son’s birth story starts far before the birth. One day before my 31st birthday, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Even before taking the test, I knew I was pregnant. I felt it. I wanted to make sure my birthday festivities (aka drinking) could be altered if my gut feeling was right. I had my positive test before I even had a missed period. My birthday was extra special, as my husband and I celebrated our news. I felt great.
At around 6 weeks pregnant, I started spotting. I felt no pain, but there was blood. I called the doctor. It was mostly brown… good. Pretty light… good. No pain… good. Just in case, my doctor scheduled a blood test. Results came back quick, I was definitely pregnant with extremely high levels.
The spotting did not slow down. Some days were heavier than others. It would go away for a day or two, and then come back. The doctors knew me by name. Some nurses reassured me that I was having a miscarriage and “these things just happened”. Others assured me that based on my levels everything looked fine. After a day of heavier bleeding, my husband and I decided to make a trip to the emergency room. There, they did an ultrasound and I got to see my baby for the first time.
Multiple tests, many scans later, and the doctors are still not sure what caused the bleeding. They said it could have been a twin. It may have been just a random pocket of blood that needed to get out. It’s still something I think about.
By my second trimester, the bleeding had stopped and I felt great. Genetic testing revealed that we were having a baby boy! He started kicking around and I was able to feel all of the magic of him kicking (mostly at my lungs). At 20 weeks we went for our anatomy scan. All was well! He was breech, but had plenty of time of turn. I was asked to come back for a follow up appointment a month later, for scar tissue seen during the scan.
A month later at my follow up appointment, it was determined that the scar tissue was not a concern. He was, however, still breech. At this point, he was getting larger and it was getting harder for me to feel him move. I would feel him hiccup, and that was my reassurance that he was okay. He felt stuck, unable to move around like he once did.
My doctor suggested an External Cephalic Version (ECV). This procedure is where a doctor puts pressure on the outside of the stomach, to try and flip the baby into the right position. I went in for my scheduled appointment at 37 weeks. As soon as the IV was put in, monitors started beeping. The nurse said, “a bunch of people are going to come into the room very quickly”. Before I knew it, a doctor was in the room explaining to me what an emergency c-section was and explaining what was about to happen. Luckily, the beeps slowed and stabilized. I was kept in the hospital for 8 hours, and did not have the ECV or an emergency c-section.
My doctor called me and scheduled a planned c-section for 39 weeks. This baby was breech and stubborn. That week was filled with many monitoring appointments and ultrasounds. I could not feel him moving anymore, but was reassured that he was slightly wiggling and his heartbeat seemed steady. Even so, the ultrasound techs always seemed a little nervous when trying to search for movement.
5 days later, my husband and I decided that instead of cleaning the house to prepare for baby, to live it up one more time and go see a movie! We saw Jumanji (it was very good). After the movie, we came home and went to bed around midnight. About 20 minutes later, I woke up and thought “did I just pee the bed?” I went into the bathroom, as a steady stream kept dripping. I woke up my husband to let him know that my water broke. My normally level headed husband jumped out of bed yelling “we didn’t pack the hospital bag! What are we going to do!?”. I calmed him down (ha) and he went to get the car. We made our way to the hospital.
I walked in and told them that my water had broke and that I was there for a c-section. They confirmed that my water had in fact broke and asked if I had eaten anything. I had ate a lot (and I mean a lot) of popcorn. Apparently, it is dangerous to give an epidural with food in your stomach. So we waited. After a few hours of waiting, I was wheeled into the surgery area. My husband, James, waited outside.
The anesthesiologist assistant was extremely nice. I had an epidural and watched my foot which was nervously tapping slow down to a halt, as the medicine did it’s job. They set me up on the table, and had James come back into the room. The surgery team started work. The surgeon went “Wow! Look at this!” and everyone went running over. They started taking pictures and talking about how it was “textbook”. Finally, the surgeon explained to me that I have a bicornuate uterus – which essentially means that it is shaped like a heart.
I would later come to find that this means my pregnancy was high risk. It also explained many, if not all, of the symptoms I had: being breech, the “scar tissue”, not feeling movement. It may explain the early bleeding, if there was not enough room for twins to grow. I will never know. We are so thankful that we were not able to do the ECV, as this may have severely hurt our baby boy.
By now, it was past 4am. I had not slept for close to 24 hours, and I was tired. The anesthesiologist assistant was hovering over me, making sure I was okay. I assured him I was, and then shut me eyes. When I realized that nobody started freaking out when my eyes shut I thought “Score! I can sleep!” and sleep I did. I have always heard that c-sections where quick, but to me it felt like forever. I just wanted to hear that I had a healthy baby boy. Finally, I heard he was out. James brought him over to me, woke me up and introduced me to my baby boy, Derek. He had a cute smooshed little nose (due to my bicornuate uterus, it un-smooshed in a matter of weeks) and was absolutely perfect.
As James was holding him, he asked one of the nurses if he could take Derek. He said he felt faint. They had to rush him out of the surgery room and give him apple juice. I guess the reality of it all hit him at once, although he claims it was just hot wearing the gown and mask in the sterile room.
The next few months were filled with sleepless nights, breastfeeding classes, countless tears, hours of pumping and frustration. I was told that because he was early and too weak, he could not breastfeed. I tried every position. I pumped for hours on end, with barely any milk production. I never produced enough milk to feed Derek, and was forced to feed him formula from the very beginning. I pumped for 6 months, giving Derek as much as I possibly could. Some days, I would pump for hours to only give him 2 ounces. I still wish I could have done more, and it pains me to think about it.
When I tell people about the birth of Derek, I like to joke and say, “My water broke. I walked into the hospital and said, ‘Hi! I’m here for a c-section!’. Then they cut him out and I had my baby!”. The longer story is filled with a lot more anxiety. I am so thankful that my unidentified high risk pregnancy went smoothly, and I have my amazing, healthy little boy.